Tuesday, March 19, 2002

From the Reading Pile VIII

After School
This tidy little pocket-sized accordion of a comic sports a woodcut-printed cover and is limited to an edition of 100. Bruce Orr considers children's many after-school activities, drawing in a heavily inked rendering of Robert Lewis' style on one side -- and accelerating to adulthood on the other side to show how playful activities contribute to adult behavior. There are few surprises, but the comparisons are valid and quite emotional. An excellent look at how personalities develop. The physical design slightly reminds me of a bus passenger-related comics accordion printed by Pipifax or Bulb in Europe, but I can't find it, so who knows. Worth a look. Maybe Bruce should move up to Boston! $3 to Bruce Orr, 1601 S. 8th St., Philadelphia, PA 19148.

The Picnic stocks a lot of Neil's Jam minis, but this is the first issue -- self-published in October 2001 -- that's inspired a Media Diet buy. Obviously and admittedly based on Batman, this 16-page edition presents an interview with the cartoony hero about his job, hobbies, sidekick, frustrations, and abuse at the, um, feet of others. If this is as deep as Neil Jam gets, I'm not sure I need more, but it's a good introduction to Fitzpatrick's artwork, humor, and pacing. I wonder if Neil knows Kevin, who does Supermonster. $1 to Neil Fitzpatrick.

Doris #11
This 36-page issue begins the Doris ABC's, an encyclopedia set, and goes into the C's. Doris is a little self-conscious about writing about "things I'd feel dumb writing about otherwise; like anarchism and Zimbabwe," but the premise is a welcome departure from her usual perzine narratives. She writes about intential community building, the academic nature of some idealist writing (which makes anarchism inaccessible to many), certainty, Murray Bookchin, direct action, polygamy, abortion and the body politic, the definition of pregnancy (quickening), racism in healthcare and how it spawned the American Medical Association, homemade boats, mucus, books and zines Doris has read, the threat of robbery, ladybugs, her sister's farm (an interview that would've been at home in the current issue of Cometbus), human compost, and other topics that don't necessarily start with the letters A, B, and C. Another quality issue of Doris with personal and productive writing. The framing concept works quite well. $1.50 to P.O. Box 1734, Asheville, NC 28802.

Scenery #13
This "examination of some things we've held to be self-evident" and "illustration of ways we shape our identity" combines sketchbook excerpts and handwritten travel-oriented personal writing that reminds me of the work of Jeff Zenick. Mike travels to Spain and tells stories about his crazy friend Eli and his roommate Josepha, makes a mistaken comparison between British lad mags and Esquire and GQ (Maxim is more like it.), and discusses his commute in Granada, feeling lost in a cemetery, language barriers, the horrors of art commissioned by royalty, shoplifting, and rude travelers. The writing is hella better than that in most travel-oriented perzines -- opting for transparent narrative rather than self-aware, self-righteous judgment -- and Mike's sketches? Absolutely beautiful. Be sure to check the small spire on p. 3, the phone booth on p. 21, and the interrupted rooftops on p. 22. Why haven't I seen this before? $3 to Tree of Knowledge, P.O. Box 251766, Little Rock, AR 72225.

Another relatively overpriced mini -- After School cost $3? -- this 28-pager features cute brut comic art and watercolored sketchbook excerpts featuring angry children, diapered infants, notebook paper animals, heavy use of hash marks, musclebound ducklings, giraffes, plaintive babies, and the Smart Dog. Amy's art reminds me slightly of Gary Panter and Mike Diana, as well as a Paper Radio-influenced Ron Rege, Jr. I'd like to see a proper comic by Amy, but I doubt I'll pick up another sketchbook mini such as this. Good unified idea, but little else. $3 to Amy Lockhart, 585 Eastvale Dr., Gloucester, Ontario K1J 6Z4 Canada.

Supermonster #14
Entitled Gloriana Comics, this 96-page edition of Kevin Huizenga's minicomic is quite a bargain compared to many zines and self-published comics. With a full-color cover, the comic was drawn between the winter of 2000 and summer of 2001. It opens with "At Work," a two-pager featuring Wendy Caramel-Ganges, one of the issue's ensemble cast, who joins Glenn in the 25-page "The Groceries," in which they envision the future of their unborn child. The piece is drawn in a delightfully cartoony style and, while heavy on dialogue, reads quith smoothly, interspersing foreshadowing with conversation about Wendy's sister's relationship ups and downs. The narrative flow is interrupted by "The Sunset," which itself uses an interrupted phone conversation as the framing conceit for a meditation on the setting sun, complete with a foldout that's equal parts Chris Ware and Greg Cook. Nice pratfall ending! An existential appreciation of a blood-red moon -- and another telephone conversation -- couches Huizenga's scientific explanation in some nice Ron Rege, Jr.-esque imagery, as well as some Scott McCloud-like process comics analyzing the physics of vision. "The Moon Rose" even has a punchline! Lastly, "Basketball" evokes John Porcellino as Huizenga portrays the recollection of a game in Illinois. Hella impressive, Supermonster combines solid storytelling, unintentional cute brut imagery, process comics, and other notable elements to weave several pieces together in a narrative whole. One to get. Immediately. $3 to Kevin Huizenga, P.O. Box 12299, St. Louis, MO 63157.

There Is Nothing!
Cheryl tells me that Marc is Amy Lockhart's boyfriend, and besides their residing in the same province, the shared cute brut style indicates that that's not outside the realm of possibility. Marc's art is largely resonant of Robert Crumb by way of Peter Bagge and Ron Rege, Jr., and this half-legal, 40-page comic collects strips from the Coast, an alt.weekly in Halifax, Nova Scotia; Exclaim!; and the titillating Vice. Even Canada's answer to Factsheet Five (RIP), Broken Pencil (organized geographically a la the Hudson Luce F5), has run Marc's stuff. And good stuff it is! His character Saul reminds me of Creem magazine's Boy Howdy beer bottle character, bolstering the Crumb comparisons. "Thar Is Nut'n!" made me laugh out loud with its to-do list containing "Put things into other things" and "Discover inner self" items. "Where!?!" is a surreal nod to Joe Matt and David Lynch's comics. Marc also pokes Big Boy, psychoanalysis, abstract art, love, winter, mythology, meditation, rock 'n' roll, comics artists (hisself!), zinemakers, Japanese pop culture, free stuff, and literature. While the Crumb influence is occasionally jarring, I'd rather read these alt.weekly strips from 1995-2000 than anything ever done by Kaz. "Life Is a Highway" is the best example of Bell's cute brut leanings. Awesome stuff. Amy could take some cues. $4 to Marc Bell, 1016 Dalhousie Dr., London, Ontario N6K 1M7 Canada.

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